I just went to a talk by David Pahl, ESPN's general counsel and VP (and a Michigan Law alum!), and thought I'd share a few of the highlights.
The most interesting stuff to me was about online video. They're working with YouTube and Justin.tv to take down highlights and broadcasts, which from a consumer's perspective kind of sucks - I'm not always in front of a TV, but I want to be able to catch the game. They really want to get more material online, though - they're working on setting up a website to do a live simulcast of everything that's on ESPN. Sometime this fall, Time Warner customers - no deal with Comcast yet, what a shock - will be able to go to espnlivebroadcast.com (or something like that) and watch whatever's on at the time.
They're also trying to get more material on ESPN3, but the problem is that with a lot of their contracts it's not entirely clear whether they're allowed to broadcast stuff online. Older contracts didn't even mention web stuff, and newer ones are inconsistent. Their NFL contract, for example, says that they can put stuff online only if it's simulcast with what's on TV. Their contract for Olympics broadcasting, on the other hand, explicitly says that they aren't allowed to put video online - so when you're watching ESPN online in 2012, you'll just get a black screen when they're showing Olympic highlights. Fun.
One other thing that people kept coming back to was the Erin Andrews videotape. Apparently this guy was the one who acknowledged that it was actually her in the tape. He admitted that wasn't his brightest move. ESPN provided all of her legal counsel during that time because they were petrified that it was an ESPN employee who had made the tape. It seems Erin doesn't really understand how the internet works - she kept insisting that they take down every copy of it everywhere. But once it's out there, it's too late - it'll never die.
What else... there was some interesting talk about gambling. ESPN has to walk a fine line, trying to phrase things as "predictions" rather than "the spread" or "the over/under." Somebody brought up a pick-em feature on their website, and David's response was a gentle "shhhhhhhhh." They're especially in a tight spot since they're owned by Disney, who probably doesn't want to be associated with gambling.
He mentioned that there was some real soul-searching at ESPN about whether to air LeBron and "the Decision" because they didn't want to establish a precedent, but in the end it came down to money (surprise!). It wound up getting great ratings, unfortunately, and ESPN's president said he'd probably do it again.
Oh, and apparently Chris Berman isn't nearly as annoying in person as he is on TV. FYI.
I was thinking a bit about the Reggie Bush stuff at USC, and whether we should compensate football/basketball players beyond their scholarships. Many people hold to the traditional ideal of the student-athlete: these guys are just students who just happen to have freakish amounts of talent; they participate in our school's athletic teams, and in return are given a scholarship to pay for their education. Others advocate for a more pro-style approach: the players entertain millions of tv viewers and make a lot of money for the athletic department, so they should be paid.
I used to fall firmly in the first camp. While at Michigan I was on an academic scholarship, and I had certain requirements to uphold - maintain a certain GPA, etc. As long as I did that, my tuition, room and board were paid for. The only difference between me and the guys on athletic scholarship is that their requirements had to do with the field, and mind had to do with the classroom - right? However, I was being compensated in the same field in which I excelled: I was a good student, so my schooling was paid for. Athletes are different, though. Their potential lies on the field, but we compensate them by paying for their education. They have much more work than I did - to earn their scholarship, they have to not only do their coursework and maintain a minimum GPA, but ALSO put in the ridiculous amount of work to be involved in collegiate athletics. It would be like my scholarship requiring me to hold down an unpaid part-time job in addition to my coursework. In that sense, the traditional notion of the student-athlete is a bit ridiculous.
Aside from that, I think we have to consider where all the money goes in the current system - money that is made based on the exploits of these players. Coach salaries are escalating every year. Schools are investing tons of money into facilities - some investments are necessary (*cough cough* Crisler renovation), but others are just an arms race to impress recruits (e.g. Oregon's locker room, which reportedly has personal xboxes in each locker). Compared to those extravagancies, tuition + room and board for the athletes seems like a fairly small amount.
I think there's a way to compromise without overhauling the entire system, though. Had I wanted to make extra money aside from my scholarship, Michigan offered opportunities for students to get paid while working for the school: work-study. Why not offer student-athletes work-study money for the time they invest in sports? Most work-study jobs benefit the school (research assistantships, landscaping, etc.) and athletes arguably benefit the school as much as anyone. They entertain students and alumni, raise huge amounts of money for the athletic department, and act as ambassadors for the school. Athletes do a lot for the University - why not compensate them while working within the existing system?
I see a couple problems, but I think they could be worked around. First, there are a lot of athletes at the university who aren't on scholarship - should they be paid too? I would say probably no; make this work-study opportunity available only to athletes who are on scholarship. I know it doesn't seem fair, but the work study money would be a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of a full scholarship. This really wouldn't be much of a change from the status quo from a financial standpoint.
The other issue is how much to pay student athletes. I think that's actually pretty easy. I believe there's a fixed hourly rate for work-study jobs (correct me if I'm wrong), and Michigan fans are all intimately familiar with the countable hour - seems like this would be a fair way to do things.
|School||Drives||Red zone %||Rank||PPT||PPT rank|
|Ohio State||18||83 %||57||4.67||72|
Well, hell. What do you make of that? I can't see much of a pattern there at all. I guess maybe the teams that play more of a smashmouth style are higher up on the list? I'm willing to chalk this up to limited sample size and uneven competition, and just come back to this in a few weeks. It does make me question how much sample size and opponent quality affected the defensive numbers as well. What do you think?
weighted percentage = (red zone TDs + 0.5 * red zone FGs) / total red zone trips
Yes, I know that a TD usually winds up being worth 7 points, but a 2:1 value for TDs vs. FGs seemed like a good starting point. Why did I bother doing this? Well, mostly just to see if numbers justified my perception that regardless of how the defense as a whole plays, it's really tightened up inside the 20s. How do we measure up? Well, I put the whole Big 10 on a...
|School||Drives||Red zone %||Rank||Weighted red zone %||Weighted rank||PPT|
|Wisconsin||13||92 %||102||81 %||110||5.46|
|Michigan State||12||100 %||111(t)||88 %||113||5.92|
|Ohio State||5||100 %||111(t)||90 %||118||6.40|
Note - "Red zone %" and "Rank" are the defensive numbers straight from the NCAA website, and the weighted numbers are mine.
So what does this mean?
It's still early in the season, but we can start to see a few things.
- First, I was right - Michigan is near the top of the conference, and has done a pretty good job of keeping folks out of the endzone when they get inside the 20.
- Holy hell, MSU. If we get in the red zone, we should get points - probably 6 of them.
- Iowa's interesting - every red zone trip, they've given up a score. However, they've done a damn god job of limiting people to field goals. (Admittedly, that's on only 7 drives.)
- Penn State's been pretty darn good, allowing a TD on only 25% of their red zone trips.
- Before you start gloating about OSU being at the bottom of the list, look at the number of drives. That's right, they're allowing an average of 1.25 red zone drives per game. Of course, they gave up touchdowns on almost every trip, but small sample size blah blah.
- Virginia Tech checks in at #4 nationally, allowing TDs on only 4 of their 17 defensive red zone trips. They must put something in the water in Blacksburg, cause that's ridiculous.
- Oklahoma and Florida are #2 and 5, respectively. It's just not fair to put defenses that tough opposite offenses with the kind of firepower they have (assuming their QBs are healthy, anyway.)
EDIT - I added in the "PPT" column. This is the "points per red zone trip" metric discussed in the comments, and it's what I used for my red zone offense post here. This didn't change the rankings too much - if I reranked based on the new metric, Wisconsin would leapfrog Northwestern and Illinois by a slim margin, but that's it. Also of interest is that using the PPT metric, OSU gets jumped by Arizona and Louisiana-Monroe, leaving the Bucks dead last in NCAA D1A. That makes me smile inside, even if it is just an artifact of a small sample size.